So What Is a Cabochon?

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Having recently featured some cabochon pendants, you may find yourself wondering what the heck a cabochon is!  If you guessed that the term is of French derivation, you’re absolutely right!  It comes from the old French word “caboche” which means “head” or colloquially “noggin” as in “patate sur la caboche” (conked on the head).


In jewelry, it refers to a domed shape with a smooth surface.  Opaque stones such as moonstones, opals and onyx are usually seen in cabochon format.  Star stones, such as sapphires, and tiger’s eye especially lend themselves to the cabochon cut and polishing.

Transparent gems, on the other hand, are usually facet cut.  They also tend to be harder and therefore more resistant to scratching during the faceting process.

Most cabochons are oval shaped, but they may also be round, tear-drop or even square.  The popularity of the oval shape may also be due to the fact that the human eye is less able to detect imperfections in symmetry in this form as compared to a round shape.

These days, cabochons can refer not only to natural stones, but glass and synthetics.  And they are perfectly on trend for the current fashion for statement necklaces.  They lend themselves to creative settings, from fine and intricate wire wrappings, to braided and twisted cords, that traditionally aren’t used for fine jewelry.

So wear your “cab” jewelry with pride!

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